Ready for the future

Published 3:25 pm Sunday, March 12, 2017

Symmes Valley STEM courses to launch in the fall

Representatives from the Project Lead the Way program at Collins Career Technical Center met with the administration of Symmes Valley schools on Wednesday to begin planning for an addition to the district’s curriculum.
Matt Monteville, director of satellite operations for Collins, and Gary Salyer, the transition coordinator for Project Lead the Way, spoke with principals and guidance counselors of the district’s high and middle schools in superintendent Darrell Humphreys’ office to discuss courses in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that will be offered beginning in the fall for the 2017-2018 school year.
Monteville said the Symmes Valley Board of Education voted at last month’s board meeting to begin the classes, the eighth school district to partner with Collins for the program.
A general STEM course will be offered in eighth grade, followed by bioscience classes in the ninth grade and above, Monteville said.
Salyer said the program will focus on four areas — critical thinking/problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
“Our teachers are taught to answer questions with questions,” he said. “They don’t give definitive answers. We want students to be problem solvers and innovators. We’re not telling them how to do it. We’re giving them direction.”
He said while some students may excel at getting good grades in a traditional setting, others find the hands-on, task-oriented approach of STEM courses to be more geared to their thinking.
“And we’re being told by employers that they want those four things we mentioned,” he said. “Companies aren’t going to ask for your GPA or want to know what you made in chemistry. But they do ask for problem solvers and the ability to work on a team.”
He said another focus of PLTW courses is to educate students on career options.
“Students know very few careers,” he said. “And most of them are one their family and neighbors are involved in. We spend a lot of time talking careers and giving them an idea of what’s out there.”
Monteville said the bioscience program “mirrors things students are already doing in high school, but approaches it from different angles.”
To give an example of what they might expect as a project, he said that on the first day of class, students would walk in to find a mock-up of a dead body.
“They’ll be syringes around it, fingerprints and hair fibers,” he said. “They’ll learn to draw it to scale.”
Next, he said they would walk through the process of who is contacted, running from a 911 operator, an EMT and the coroner.
“We’ll discuss each of these,” Monteville said. “What it takes, the job skills needed and what the pay is.”
He said students would then be asked to take evidence around the body and determine how the individual died.
“They’ll design an experiment to determine how long it takes a body to cool,” he said of follow-up assignments. “And they’ll learn about blood spatters and dropping blood from different heights.”
He said they would learn that the individual was a diabetic.
“They’ll study how the body sends messages,” he said. “Insulin is a hormone.”
Other areas they would learn about are heart disease and genetic disorders like sickle cell disease.
He said that, in the senior year, the students would engage in job shadowing to learn about prospective careers.
“How do you become something that you don’t even know exists?” Monteville asked.
He said the enthusiasm of the students is evident in their work habits.
“One thing I like about the program is the students go in and start working,” he said. “The teacher actually has to stop them to talk to them at the beginning of class.”
Monteville and Salyer will be at the school on March 28 to talk to students about the program. The presentation will feature a series of stations to give examples of projects, as well as students from other PLTW schools to give first-hand accounts.
An informational meeting is planned for the middle school from 6-7 p.m. on March 30 for parents and students.
Following the meeting on Wednesday, Humphreys expressed the administration’s enthusiasm.
“We’re very excited to add this to our curriculum,” he said. “Our board of education has made a wise choice in bringing STEM education to Symmes Valley. We started hearing about career opportunities and the number of kids in the past who have secured opportunities and that gets our attention.”

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